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Full text of "The History Of Western Education"

412        HISTORY OF WESTERN EDUCATION

it is certain to displace many of the vague ideas due to casual
uncritical experience which dominate school practice, by definite
ideas based on careful observation and on experiments capable
of being repeated at will. Its main weakness as a science claiming
all education for its province is that it only takes account of
measurable facts. This restriction, if consistently observed,
necessitates indifference to the more complex factors in educational
work, which are either incapable of assessment by any existing
method of investigation, or possibly incapable of assessment by
any method. This entails preoccupation with those aspects of
education which are at once the simplest and the least important:
with the sensory reactions of the child rather than with his basic
impulses or his ideals, with the teaching of the mechanic arts
rather than with the development of spiritual appreciations.
The alternative to indifference is an undue simplification of the
higher phases of educational activity to bring them within the
compass of scientific treatment. This seems to have been done,
for example, in the many investigations made to solve the problem
of formal disciplineŚconcerning the possibility of transfer of
mental power gained in subjects like Latin or mathematics to
any other subject. Here, quite unwarrantably, results got in
experiments with comparatively simple mental processes, such
as those involved in memory, have been made the ground for
generalizations regarding all forms of mental process.

It would be a mistake, however, to lay too much stress on the
imperfections of the experimental method in education at its
present stage, A new science must be allowed time to discover
its proper limits, and it can do so best by exploring its field in
the first instance without much concern about limits. Yet even
granting this, it must not be forgotten that there are funda-
mental questions in education which science by itself can never
settle. It may be permissible to postulate, as a working principle,
. the opposition of experimental pedagogy to " a pedagogy of a
more theoretical character based on some philosophical system
or preconception of the aim of education " ; but as a matter of
fact, it is impossible to do without preconceptions outside the
range of science in any pedagogy. To take a simple example*
Experience may determine whether Latin can be taught satis-
factorily to children of a particular age, and, if so, what method is
best fitted to secure the desired result. It cannot determine